Mayo Clinic Q&A

From complex or serious conditions like cancer and heart disease to the latest news on research and wellness, host Dr. Halena Gazelka asks the questions and gets easy-to-understand answers from Mayo Clinic experts

Most Recent Episodes

Vaccines and kids — what you need to know about COVID-19, flu
October 1, 2021

With flu season approaching, Mayo Clinic experts remind parents of the importance of vaccinating children for influenza and COVID-19 when possible. 

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)recommends everyone 6 months and older get vaccinated for flu each year. The CDC also says people who are eligible can be vaccinated for flu and COVID-19 at the same time. 

Currently, children ages 12 and older are permitted to get vaccinated for COVID-19 using the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine under terms of the Food and Drug Administration's emergency use authorization. Experts anticipate that the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine will soon be approved for emergency use authorization for children 5-11.

On the Mayo Clinic Q&A podcast, Dr. Angela Mattke, a Mayo Clinic pediatrician and host of Ask The Mayo Mom, discusses children and vaccines with Dr. Robert Jacobson, a Mayo Clinic pediatrician. Dr. Jacobson co-chairs the AskMayoExpert Knowledge Content Board on Immunizations and Vaccinations, and he is medical director for Mayo Clinic's Primary Care in Southeast Minnesota Immunization Program.

a middled-aged man helping an older woman with something on the screen of a laptop

Breaking down COVID-19 vaccine booster approvals
September 29, 2021

The path to approvals for a booster dose of the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine has seemed complicated. 

"This is a confusing set of recommendations," says Dr. Gregory Poland, an infectious diseases expert and head of Mayo Clinic's Vaccine Research Group. "So let's look at the four groups approved for only the Pfizer booster, thus far. If you got a primary series of the Pfizer vaccine, you're 65 and older, and it's been six months or more, you are eligible for a booster. If you're 50–64 and you have medical conditions that place you at high risk, you are eligible for the booster. If you're 18–49, you may be able to get a booster based on a medical condition and if you talk with your health care provider to weigh risks and benefits. And, finally, for people 18–64 years old, who are health care providers in congregate living situations or who have occupations that place them at high risk for transmission, such as school teachers, they also may be eligible. That should happen very soon."

In this Mayo Clinic Q&A podcast, Dr. Poland talks more about the approval process for COVID-19 vaccine boosters, including for the Moderna and Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccines. He also discusses the possibility that emergency use approval for children, down to age 5, could come before the end of October.

a young white child softly smiling, wearing a scarf wrap as if they have cancer and are receiving chemo therapy

Treatment options for pediatric brain tumors
September 22, 2021

Of the many different types of pediatric brain tumors some are noncancerous, or benign, and some are cancerous, or malignant. Treatment and chance of recovery, or prognosis, depend on the type of tumor, its location within the brain, whether it has spread, and your child's age and general health. Because new treatments and technologies are continually being developed, several options may be available at different points in treatment.

On the Mayo Clinic Q&A podcast, Dr. Angela Mattke, a Mayo Clinic pediatrician and host of Ask The Mayo Mom, will discuss treatment options for brain tumors in children with guests Dr. Soumen Khatua and Dr. Jonathan Schwartz — both Mayo Clinic pediatric neuro-oncologists — and Dr. David Daniels, a Mayo Clinic pediatric neurosurgeon. This conversation is part of Childhood Cancer Awareness Month.

closeup of a medical person wearing gloves holding a COVID-19 vaccine syringe

FDA panel makes recommendations on COVID-19 booster shots
September 22, 2021

On Friday, Sept. 17, the Food and Drug Administration's (FDA) advisory panel rejected a proposal to give Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine boosters to the general public. But the panel recommend boosters for people aged 65 and older — and for other high-risk groups — six months after the initial vaccination series. That includes health care workers. The recommendation will go before the FDA for final approval. 

FDA approval is just one step in determining whether booster shots will be made available. The Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) will refine the recommendations for booster shots and provide guidance to health care providers, pharmacies and other COVID-19 vaccine providers. ACIP has scheduled a meeting for Sept. 22-23.

 "It's a bit of a complicated path," says Dr. Gregory Poland, an infectious diseases expert and head of Mayo Clinic's Vaccine Research Group. "But we're exercising caution before we proceed into boosters for everyone, and the reason for that is because we do our best to follow the science." The FDA panel requested more safety data on the use of boosters.

On the Mayo Clinic Q&A podcast, Dr. Poland discusses booster recommendations and other COVID-19 updates.

Asthma management planning can prevent asthma attacks
September 20, 2021

Asthma is a condition where your airways narrow and swell and may produce extra mucus. This can make breathing difficult, and trigger coughing, wheezing, and shortness of breath.

Asthma is one of the most common long-term diseases in children, but adults can have asthma, too. Symptoms of asthma include:

  • Shortness of breath.
  • Chest tightness or pain.
  • Wheezing when exhaling, which is a common sign of asthma in children.
  • Trouble sleeping caused by shortness of breath, coughing or wheezing.
  • Coughing or wheezing attacks worsened by a respiratory virus, such as a cold or the flu.

"People with asthma have an irritable, hyperresponsive airway," says Dr. John Costello, a consultant pulmonologist at Mayo Clinic Healthcare in London. "Many asthmatics will tell you that if they laugh, or if there's strong fumes from the back of a car or something like that, that will make them cough much more easily than a normal person."

For some people, asthma is just a minor nuisance. For others, it can be a major problem that interferes with daily activities and may lead to a life-threatening asthma attack. Maintaining good day-to-day asthma control is the key to keeping symptoms at bay and preventing asthma attacks.

On the Mayo Clinic Q&A podcast, Dr. Costello discusses how to manage asthma in adults.

normal, healthy bone marrow depicting erythroid and myeloid cells

Accurate diagnosis is key to treating lymphoma
September 17, 2021

Lymphoma is a cancer of the lymphatic system, which is part of the body's germ-fighting network. The lymphatic system includes the lymph nodes or glands, the spleen, the thymus gland, and bone marrow. 

While many types of lymphoma exist, the main subtypes are Hodgkin's lymphoma and non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma.

Knowing exactly which type of lymphoma you have is key to developing an effective treatment plan.

"The main problem with lymphoma is accurate diagnosis," says Dr. Jose Villasboas Bisneto, Mayo Clinic hematologist. "It is a rare cancer in proportion to the other cancers, so most cancer doctors will not see many lymphoma patients in any given month, or even a given year."

Tests used to diagnose lymphoma include imaging tests, such as PET, CT or MRI scans, as well as biopsies of the lymph nodes and bone marrow.

What treatment is best for a patient depends on the lymphoma type and its severity.

On the Mayo Clinic Q&A podcast, Dr. Villasboas Bisneto discusses the various types of lymphoma and how they are treated.

a white woman, a mother, wearing a mask and helping a young girl, perhaps her daughter, put on a mask during COVID-19 pandemic

Listener mailbag — COVID-19 questions answered
September 15, 2021

Each week, the Mayo Clinic Q&A podcast shares the latest information on COVID-19. On today's episode, Dr. Gregory Poland, an infectious diseases expert and head of Mayo Clinic's Vaccine Research Group, answers listeners' coronavirus questions. 

Dr. Poland discusses the mu variant, understanding breakthrough infections and the importance of flu vaccinations this fall. 

"The symptoms of COVID-19 and the symptoms of influenza overlap so much that it can be hard to distinguish one from another," says Dr. Poland. 

What can the public do to protect themselves this flu season? 

"Everybody aged 6 months and older should get a flu vaccine. And as we've talked about, get a COVID-19 vaccine whenever you are eligible, and wear a mask indoors in public."

What happens after a prostate cancer diagnosis?
September 13, 2021

After skin cancer, prostate cancer is the most common type of cancer in men. One in 8 men will be diagnosed with prostate cancer in his lifetime, according to the National Cancer Institute.

While some types of prostate cancer grow slowly, and may need minimal or even no treatment, other types are aggressive and can spread quickly.

So if you’ve been diagnosed with prostate cancer. Now what?

"It's very important to know the extent or stage of the cancer," says Dr. R. Jeffrey Karnes, a Mayo Clinic urologist and chair of the Division of Community Urology at Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota.

Diagnosis and staging are done using tests, including ultrasound, MRI and biopsy.

Prostate cancer that's detected early — when it's still confined to the prostate gland — has the best chance for successful treatment. Prostate cancer treatment options depend on several factors, such as how fast the cancer is growing, whether it has spread, as well as the potential benefits or side effects of the treatment.

On the Mayo Clinic Q&A podcast, Dr. Karnes discusses treatment options for prostate cancer and the latest in clinical trials and research.

Treating birth defects before a baby is born
September 10, 2021

Birth defects affect 1 in every 33 babies born in the U.S. each year, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Before a baby is born, early intervention using fetal surgery can treat life-threatening birth defects and improve outcomes in some cases. 

Fetal surgeons at Mayo Clinic Children's Center treat many conditions, including: 

On the Mayo Clinic Q&A podcast, Dr. Angela Mattke, a Mayo Clinic pediatrician and host of Ask The Mayo Mom, is joined by Dr. Mauro Schenone, a Mayo Clinic maternal fetal surgeon, to discuss advances in technology and treatments. Dr. Schenone is also the director of the Fetal Diagnostic and Intervention Center at Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota, and chair of the Division of Maternal Fetal Medicine.

a young Black, maybe Asian, child in the hospital with an IV, perhaps sick with cancer

Cancer is the leading disease-related cause of death in children
September 9, 2021

One in every 266 children and adolescents will be diagnosed with cancer by age 20, according to the American Cancer Society.

Sarcoma — the term for a group of cancers that begin in the bones and in the soft or connective tissues — is one of the more common types of childhood cancer. 

Fortunately, recent treatment advances have increased survival rates. Of children diagnosed with cancer, 84% now survive five years or more. One of the advances in treatment has been improvement in radiation therapy techniques and the use of proton beam therapy for treating pediatric cancers.

"Radiation therapy works very well for sarcomas," says Dr. Wendy Allen-Rhoades, a Mayo Clinic pediatric hematologist and oncologist. "And the difference between conventional radiation and proton therapy radiation is that our radiation oncologists are able to contour a little bit tighter with proton therapy. Therefore, the surrounding tissue that is normal is spared from some of the side effects. This is really important in children who are growing because we want them to be able to grow normally."

In addition to sparing healthy tissue from the effects of radiation, people who must undergo radiation therapy early in life are less likely to have long-term side effects and complications, such as secondary cancers, with proton beam therapy than with conventional radiation therapy.

September is Childhood Cancer Awareness Month. On the Mayo Clinic Q&A podcast, Dr. Allen-Rhoades discusses pediatric sarcomas and the importance of funding for research and support of families dealing with pediatric cancer.